Terps show fans a thing or three during Madness Outside shooting on mark

Francis' dunks steal show

October 18, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- After the laser show ended and the product of the smoke machine lifted, Maryland fans got their first good look at Steve Francis.

As Friday turned into yesterday during Midnight Madness, the 6-foot-3 transfer from Takoma Park increased the decibel level at Cole Field House with a foul-line takeoff on a roundhouse dunkduring warm-ups. The junior college All-American later provided the highlight of a 20-minute intrasquad scrimmage with an alley-oop slam off a Laron Profit setup off the backboard.

The pyrotechnics were fun, but educated followers of the Terps were most encouraged by something a little more old-fashioned: jump shots.

Francis and Profit hit three-pointers during the scrimmage, albeit against the kind of defensive intensity seen in an NBA all-star game. So did freshmen Juan Dixon and Danny Miller, the other new additions on the perimeter. Norman Fields, a former walk-on who could get more minutes this year, hit one beyond the arc, as did fellow reserve Matt Hahn.

Even center Obinna Ekezie made a jumper with a foot on the three-point line.

The point, or, rather, points? One of Maryland's objectives over the next month will be finding who will pick up the shooting slack left by the departure of Rodney Elliott and Sarunas Jasikevicius. Their leadership will be missed almost as much as their jumpers.

The NBA lockout postponed Elliott's dream, so he's playing professionally in Belgium. Jasikevicius is doing the same in Lithuania, his homeland. Both pack a proficient stroke when they go to work, as Jasikevicius had one of the best three-point shooting seasons ever by a Terp and Elliott made 37.8 percent of his attempts behind the line.

Even with those two, Maryland had the second-worst three-point percentage among the nine teams in Atlantic Coast Conference games last season. The Terps made 166 threes for the season, and Jasikevicius had 60 of those, Elliott 28.

Both point guard Terrell Stokes and Profit said they put in extra time shooting this summer. Terence Morris showed nice range last season, but now that he's grown to 6 feet 9, 205 pounds, the sophomore from Frederick will most likely see more time on the baseline and less on the wing.

Francis, Dixon and Miller can all put it up, and it was hilarious to hear this disingenuous media day comment from Dixon: "My job isn't to score, but to bring energy to the team."

"Right," coach Gary Williams said of the redshirt freshman out of Calvert Hall. "He better shoot."

The positive buzz around Maryland helped lure a Midnight Madness record crowd of 12,317 to Cole. They were lured by the hot recruiting class and the Terps' high rankings in the preseason publications. Williams only added to the expectations that have his team ranked anywhere from Nos. 4-7 nationally.

"We're not going to lose at Cole Field House, but we need your help to do that," Williams said after his players had been introduced.

NOTES: The Australian All-Stars have replaced the Croatian national team for the Terps' exhibition opener, Nov. 4 at Cole Field House. Tahj Holden, a highly regarded 6-10 forward out of Little Silver, N.J., has taken official visits to Clemson and Maryland. He'll visit Syracuse on Halloween weekend and make a college decision before the early signing period begins Nov. 11. LaRon Cephas, a sophomore forward from Wilmington, Del., still hasn't completely recovered from off-season knee surgery and it will be at least several more weeks before he's cleared for full practices. Lonny Baxter, a 6-8 freshman from Washington, D.C., looks ready to take the minutes Cephas got last year and more.

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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